- Champa Mekong Express Bus
- Crossing Vietnam-Cambodia Border with Champa Mekong Express Bus
- Review: Champa Mekong Express Bus
Ever since I started planning out my Vietnam itinerary back home, I knew that I wanted to leave Vietnam for Cambodia by land through Kampot. And not the usual Ho Chi Minh City-Phnom Penh route that people often use for their Indochina travel.
However, as it turned out, I couldn’t find any transportation option from Chau Doc to Kampot online. Going to Ha Tien first was my only way in order to get the bus ticket to Kampot, since most of the transportation options from Chau Doc to Cambodia go directly to Phnom Penh.
After staying overnight in Ha Tien, I took Champa Mekong Express Bus from Ha Tien to Kampot and I’ll share the review of my journey with them here! 🙂
Champa Mekong Express Bus
The good news is that for Ha Tien-Kampot route, I could book the bus ticket online through Bookaway for $10 USD.
It was my first border service from Vietnam, so it was quite an experience. At first, I gotta admit that I expected an easy border service like when I took the minibus from Indonesia’s West Kalimantan to Sarawak in Malaysia. Or the bus trip from Malaysia to Singapore, if not the bus service from Malaysia to Brunei in Borneo.
Well, if I gotta say anything about the comparison… Any border service from Malaysia is totally easier compared to those border services around Indochina. Why? I’ll explain about this later.
The Meeting Point in Ha Tien
At first, I thought that the departure point in Ha Tien would be at the same bus station where I got off on the previous day. However, when I consulted with the receptionist at River Hotel Ha Tien, they said that the meeting point listed on my Bookaway voucher is located not so far from the hotel.
The meeting point is located close to Happy Hotel Ha Tien, and it only cost VND 50,000 (around $2.1 USD) to take taxi from my hotel to get there.
Check-in Process at Champa Mekong Express Bus
My departure time from Ha Tien was at 12.30 PM, and I arrived around 10.30 AM at the meeting point. Greeted by a friendly staff, she told me to check-in around 12.00 PM so I decided to leave my luggage there and get around to have lunch.
There aren’t so many options to eat at the time, but I found some stalls who sell vegetarian food not so far from the bus office. I had vegetarian pho at the time, but it was nothing special so I don’t think it’s worth mentioning. 😛
I came back to the bus office before 12.00 PM and checked in by showing my Bookaway voucher. In exchange to that, I got the print-out of my bus ticket for the journey.
The bus ran a little later than the scheduled time, because I think the bus only arrived at the office at around 12.45 PM or so.
Crossing Vietnam-Cambodia Border with Champa Mekong Express Bus
Since crossing the border to and from Malaysia was the only experience I had, I really thought that the ease to cross Vietnam-Cambodia border would be close to my previous experiences around Malaysia. As it turned out, it wasn’t the case.
If crossing the border to and from Malaysia means that you will most likely use the same vehicle from the meeting point to the last stop, it is absolutely not the case when you cross the border around Indochina.
For example, if you take the bus from Malaysia to Singapore, even though you get to change the bus in the border, it’s quite easy to know where to go to stamp your passport and everything. I gotta admit, this part was a bit challenging for me to cross the border from Vietnam to Cambodia by land.
The Bus to Get to Vietnam-Cambodia Border
So, the first bus that took us to the border arrived at around 12.45 PM. And it was actually a decent bus, as I thought the journey would have been much better if we used the same bus to the arrival in Kampot. But again, that wasn’t the case since we would transfer to a mini bus that I gotta say less convenient.
It took around 30 minutes from the meeting point to the border, and once you reached the border you will have to take all your belongings and walk to get through the immigration.
It’s basically like the immigration process if you cross Singapore-Malaysia border, the only difference is that you have to do it outdoor. I know this would make me sound like a spoiled brat, but when it comes to Vietnam-Cambodia border, you really have to walk through some dirt road under the sun at 1 PM.
So yes, it wasn’t the most convenient journey for me as I have a big luggage with me. I know it’s my fault since things might have been easier if I stick with backpacking style, but hey it’s not me if I’m not complaining! LOL
The Immigration Process
Well, since I’m an Indonesian passport holder slash ASEAN citizen, I got the privilege for free visa to enter either Vietnam and Cambodia. So the immigration process was relatively easy since I didn’t have to pay for anything.
The only challenging part about the immigration process was really the part when I gotta take all my belongings during the process. And also the part when I got confused about where to go, because there was no clear instruction about what where to go and what to do next.
If it wasn’t because of the staff who assisted me in the bus office, she approached me with her scooter telling me where to go and point out the meeting point for the next bus… Well, if it wasn’t because of her, I suppose I’d be totally confused.
So yes, after we got our passport stamped in Ha Tien immigration office, we walked to the Cambodian immigration with all our belongings.
The queue wasn’t that long, but honestly… As a Southeast Asian myself, I kinda understand by how long the process could take to get our passport stamped because it’s like the ASEAN culture when it comes to bureaucracy. Like it legit takes longer than it should. LMAO.
At first I was a bit nervous since it was my first time to enter Cambodia. And based on my experience, crossing the border by land was always more complicated than by flight. So I was quite prepared for some questions, just in case.
But when it was my turn to get my passport stamped, the process was actually quite easy. The immigration officer only asked me how long I was planning to stay in Cambodia and that was all.
The Bus from the Border to Kampot
After getting my passport stamped, I walked again to the immigration exit and we had to wait for like 30 minutes for other passengers to finish their bureaucracy. Most other passengers were required visa to enter Cambodia, so I figured that I’d probably wait for them since the process might take longer for them.
Well, we gotta wait around 15 minutes outside the minibus because the driver wasn’t there. Again, it was quite annoying when you’re a spoiled brat like me. Gotta stand under the sun at 1.30 PM in a tropical country? No, thanks. LOL
Anyway, when it comes to the bus… It’s basically a minibus. As I mentioned earlier, it’s less convenient than the bus we used to get to Ha Tien border from the bus office. But I suppose it wasn’t too bad.
It took around 2 hours from the border to get to Kampot. We stopped by Kep, and we took some other passengers from there.
Despite how inconvenient it was to get through the border, it was actually an enjoyable trip with so many beautiful views along the way.
Review: Champa Mekong Express Bus
If only I traveled lighter, maybe crossing the border wouldn’t seem like a struggle. But since I didn’t, it was for sure inconvenient to take my trolley bag through the immigration offices and whatnot.
However, in terms of safety and all, it’s all great even though they could work better when it comes to punctuality as well.
- It’s super affordable! I mean, $10 USD for a one-way ticket is not so bad.
- The ticket is available online so you can book it in advance.
- Easy check-in process.
- The immigration process isn’t too complicated either if you know what to do and where to go when you get through it.
- I wouldn’t recommend this if you don’t travel light. Honestly, I think the best way to do it if you’re a flashpacker like me is to rent a private car. But I understand it would be way too expensive.
- The minibus used from the border to Kampot was rather small. So yeah, it isn’t really an ideal option if you don’t travel light.
- Our departure time was a bit delayed from the scheduled time. And with all the immigration process that could be unpredictable, the arrival time in Kampot was hard to tell.
- It would be more helpful if they could give us clear instructions about what needs to be done on the border. With almost zero information about it, I was a bit clueless when I got off the bus.
Well, I would say that Champa Mekong Express Bus is a good option when you want to travel on the budget from Vietnam to Cambodia.
However, what you gained in affordability, you don’t really get it through comfort. So the choice is yours! 😉
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